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A person from Ukraine told me today that one of the reasons he practices martial arts, and also studies (and practices) religion by residing in religious places in India, is because he believes India had a lot of fundamental knowledge about energy and the human body, and that martial arts had its origin in yoga. He says it is from India that martial arts spread to the world.

I find this a bit hard to believe. Although there is mention of how Indian martial arts were introduced to the monks in China, it does seem a no-brainer that other societies across the world would have developed their own fighting systems before, or at the same time, as India.

Also, the wiki page on Indian martial arts says that there were fighting systems in place much before the incorporation of yoga or ayurveda into the fighting styles.

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Sainid's answer mentions the common story that an Indian monk introduced exercises to the Shaolin temple, and their martial arts practice grew out of those exercises; this is probably what the Ukrainian guy is referring to. There are hundreds of web sites and books sharing that notion, for example (Bodhidharma) "taught various exercises to the monks there that would develop into modern day kung fu".

Wikipedia's article on Shaolin Kung Fu also mentions this popular myth of "Bodhidharma influencing Shaolin boxing" but largely discredits it. See the Wikipedia article for links to further reference material:

Bodhidharma's influence

Some popular stories consider Bodhidharma as the founder of Shaolin kung fu.

The idea of Bodhidharma influencing Shaolin boxing is based on a qigong manual written during the 17th century. This is when a Taoist with the pen name "Purple Coagulation Man of the Way" wrote the Sinews Changing Classic in 1624, but claimed to have discovered it. The first of two prefaces of the manual traces this qigong style's succession from Bodhidharman to the Chinese general Li Jing via "a chain of Buddhist saints and martial heroes."15 The work itself is full of anachronistic mistakes and even includes a popular character from Chinese fiction, the "Qiuran Ke" ("Bushy Bearded Hero)" (虬髯客), as a lineage master.[16] Literati as far back as the Qing Dynasty have taken note of these mistakes. The scholar Ling Tinkang (1757–1809) described the author as an 'ignorant village master'."(p168)

Like other stories of Shaolin, this story has, after all, some basis in reality. Bodhidharma was the founder of Dhyana (Chinese: 禅; pinyin: chán; Japanese: zen) Buddhism.

In the Wikipedia article on Bodhidharma:

According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of the monks of Shaolin Monastery that led to the creation of Shaolin Kung Fu.

Some Chinese myths and legends describe Bodhidharma as being disturbed by the poor physical shape of the Shaolin monks,[40] after which he instructed them in techniques to maintain their physical condition as well as teaching meditation.[40] He is said to have taught a series of external exercises called the Eighteen Arhat Hands and an internal practice called the Sinew Metamorphosis Classic. In addition, after his departure from the temple, two manuscripts by Bodhidharma were said to be discovered inside the temple: the Yijin Jing and the Xisui Jing. Copies and translations of the Yijin Jing survive to the modern day. The Xisui Jing has been lost.

Your question continues:

...it does seem a no-brainer that other societies across the world would have developed their own fighting systems before, or at the same time, as India. // ...there were fighting systems in place much before the incorporation of yoga or ayurveda into the fighting styles.

For sure, your Ukrainian friend wouldn't be totally mistaken to think that Indian practices like yoga show an extreme mastery of mind and body that could complement martial arts training, and seems quite rare internationally and historically. In my opinion, India is not an unreasonable place for a martial artist to seek knowledge. That said, I've not personally seen evidence of any especially developed martial arts in India, compared to other locations, but for some reason they seem to get less media attention from the Western world that many other countries' arts.

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Short Answer: No.

Longer Answer: When and where have there not been martial arts? Individual styles and schools all have their own creation stories. And they can generally be ties to historical events or people. But there has never been a vacuum.

As long as there has been fighting, people have created some form of training environment where mistakes could be made. Always and everywhere.

Just try to imagine it otherwise. Imagine learning to use a bow without using targets. Imagine learning to use a sword without starting with sticks. Imagine learning to grapple without trying it with somebody who isn't trying to kill you.

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Though myself an Indian I will not believe this fact that Martial arts originated in India as we never had such great history of Martial arts being part of Indian Culture . Kalaripayattu being one of the oldest we came to know about this during the British rule and it was being kept in secret from the colonial Britishers . We have different fighting warriors who introduced different fighting systems with versatile weapons unlike the Sikhs, Marathas, Rajputs and other different clans whom we never heard that trying to prove their fighting mettle with the help of Martial Arts .

Yoga has a matching aspect with Martial arts whose objective is to bring Mind , body and Soul together . Yoga is just a non violent form of Martial arts for better health and relaxation.

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Yes it did. Although, people have been training to fight since probably humans have existed. The origin of martial arts that your Ukrainian friend is referring started in India more than 5000 years ago uses fighting, yoga and meditation. Spread to China, then from China to Japan, and then to Europe and Americas. India was a colony of British and Muslim rulers for the last 1000 years and they banned the practice of martial arts during that era. So most of the art was lost. After India's independence in 1947, it's now making a comeback and people are trying to discover it now.

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    I don't see how that answers the question – Nav Apr 2 '17 at 15:01
  • People have been training to fight since probably humans have existed. The origin of martial arts that your Ukrainian friend is refering started in india more than 5000 years ago uses fighting, yoga and meditation. – sainid Apr 2 '17 at 18:59
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    Sainid: the India->China->Japan thing is a common story, so I think you've been a bit harshly treated with the votes! But, if you dig for references about the truth of that story, I think you'll find it's largely a modern invention - I've tried to document that in my answer. – Tony D Apr 3 '17 at 5:33
  • Tony, you are wrong in your judgment about the origin of martial arts. The lack of information online really clouds your judgment. I don't blame you. Martial arts started in India and was started by a single people. The rest are just lineage with their own interpretation. But I don't contest that people can not learn to fight just by themselves but that is no martial arts. Once you realize the real history then things will be more clear to you. – sainid Apr 3 '17 at 16:13
  • @sainid: when I say "largely a modern invention", I'm talking specifically of the idea that Bodhidharma transmitted actual martial arts (and not just exercises that helped the monks become stronger and better at their own martial arts) from India to Shaolin, and you're welcome to read the Wikipedia articles mentioned in my answer, check the references, and publish any research or references you have to the contrary. – Tony D Apr 4 '17 at 13:59

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